no comments

The Best Generator Buying Guide

I’ve been prepping for a long time, so I have a lot of basic survival needs taken care of—a long-term food supply, water filtration, etc. One thing which I thought I’d take care of in the beginning was a generator. But I quickly realized that backup power was a complex topic, and something I should wait to deal with until after I had better assessed my needs.

Click here for the Best Generator available on Amazon

A couple months back, I decided it was time to finally take care of it. But it wasn’t easy to figure out what I needed. I wanted something for both my home and my retreat. But I still wasn’t sure where to begin. “Should I get a portable generator I can take from one site to the other? Two permanent generators? How much power do I need? What fuel source should I choose?” These were the kinds of questions I had to answer.

Here is a list of the Best Generator

Now that I am all set up, I want to share the knowledge I have picked up along the way so that hopefully your generator buying process will be easier and more straightforward than mine. I am aiming to make this a comprehensive guide, so by the time you read through it all, you will be ready to pick out the best generator for your needs.

Why Do You Need a Generator?

Before, you can purchase the right generator, you need to ask yourself why you need it, how you will use it, and where you will set it up. Here are some questions to consider:

  • How long is the typical power outage in your area?
  • ​Do you need to be able to power your entire home, or just your vital appliances?
  • ​Will you be using the generator for purposes other than standby power (i.e. recreational use while camping)?
  • How often will you want to move the generator around?

Answering these questions helps you to figure out which features are important to you. If for example you will be bringing the generator with you on camping trips, portability is important. But if the generator will be a permanent standby unit in one location, or you do not expect to move it very often (maybe once someday, to relocate to your retreat), portability is not all that important. I will get into all of this in more depth momentarily. First though, we should talk about your home’s electrical system.

Map Out Your Home Electrical System

After you figure out how you plan to use your generator, your next step is to take a tour around your house or retreat. Find out where all of the switches and outlets are located. Flip the switches on your service panel and figure out which switches power which circuits and devices.

How can you do this? The easy way is to recruit a family member. One of you stands by the service panel flipping switches while the other runs around figuring out what is turning on or off. Use a walkie-talkie or cell phone to relay back the information. Write it all down and you will have this job done in no time.

What Size Generator Do You Need?

Now comes the part where you figure out whether you need a medium, large, or x-large generator. I have seen recommendations that you simply guess what you need, but I am assuming that you are coming at this wanting to make sure you actually are making the right purchase. You would hate to need to actually use your backup power supply in an emergency only to find it is insufficient to power your appliances!

Calculating Your Wattage

In order to find out what size of generator you need to buy, you need to calculate your wattage.

This is something of a pain, but it is not actually all that complicated. It is a matter of going around your house and figuring out which appliances you will need to power. You then need to find out their wattages and add them all up.

Many appliances actually list their wattages somewhere on the device; failing that, if you have kept your product manuals, you should be able to find the exact wattages in there. If you know the appliance number, you may be able to look up the information online.

If you cannot find the exact wattages for your appliances, or you want to take a shortcut, here are some common values:

Appliance

Wattage

Central AC

11,250

Window AC

2,200

Desktop computer

800

Dishwasher

14,000

Blender

850

Fridge/freezer

800

Water heater

4,500

Water pump

2,000

Radiant heater

1,300

TV

350

Electric furnace

5,000-25,000

Coffeemaker

800

Toaster

1,700

Electric range for oven

5,000

Table lamp

150

Here's a video on How to Calculate Watts.


I have tried to give higher-end values above, but keep in mind a couple of key points:

  • There is a range for every type of device, not just one possible value. Your appliances may use a higher or lower wattage than what you see above.
  • There is a higher start-up wattage when you power up a device. The wattage then drops for the duration of time the item is in use.

Generator Sizes

Once you have an estimate of the total wattage you need to power all the appliances you plan to use in an emergency, you will know what generator size you need.

  • Small: Generally provides anywhere from 2,000-7,000 watts. These portable camping generators are also known as “inverter generators.” The price for these can range quite a bit; the more watts, the more you will pay.
  • Medium: Provides 1,000-5,000 watts. This is best for powering a few key appliances only.
  • Large: Provides 6,000-8,000 watts. Use a large generator to power a couple of rooms or a few more key appliances.
  • X-Large: Provides 10,000-25,000 watts. Power your entire home.

Remember, you will not be using all of your devices simultaneously! So even if you calculate a large combined total, that does not mean you need a generator that can handle that full load. Ask yourself which appliances you are likely use simultaneously, and add up the load for all those devices. Remember there are also appliances which really are not that important to use in an emergency; try to stick with the essentials.

As you have probably noticed, there are a few appliances which are almost impossible to power reliably using a generator. One power-guzzling electric furnace may suck up all your generator power. So this is also a great time to think about replacing power-hogging devices with appliances which use a lower wattage (this will also save you a ton of money over time).

Generally speaking, the larger your generator is, the more it will cost. Medium generators usually start out around $400, while large generators start at around $800. Expect to pay a minimum of around $2,000 for an x-large generator.

Standby, Portable, or Inverter?

Generators can be grouped into three main categories: standby, portable or inverter.

Standby

  • This is a fully enclosed unit intended for permanent installation. Like all other generators, it should be installed outdoors.
  • ​You will connect the standby generator directly to your electrical system. You can use it to power some or all of your appliances.
  • ​Standby generators are usually powered either by natural gas or liquid propane.
  • ​Models may be liquid-cooled or air-cooled. The liquid-cooled models provide more power.
  • ​These units provide anywhere from 5,000-25,000 watts of power.
  • ​Price may range anywhere from around $2,000-$20,000.
  • ​Professional installation is usually required, so setting up a standby generator will cost you extra. You may also need to get a permit.
  • May include extra features such as the ability to kick on automatically during a power outage.

Portable

*We've listed for the Best Portable Generator, just click here.

  • These units are not fully enclosed, and generally are smaller than standby generators. They are designed as back-up power sources, but may also be good for portable or recreational use. The smaller models can be picked up and carried. The larger ones need to be wheeled around.
  • ​A portable generator can hook up to a power outlet or you can plug appliances into it directly.
  • ​The majority of portable generators require gasoline as a power source, though you may find some models which accept liquid propane.
  • ​These units must be installed at least 15 feet away from your home. While they must be kept in the open, they do require a cover or tent of some sort to protect them from the weather.
  • ​Electric starting is available for some models, but you will likely have to buy the batteries separately.
  • ​These generators provide anywhere from 3,000-10,000 watts.
  • Price typically ranges anywhere from $400 to $2,000.

Inverter

*We've listed for the Best Inverter Generators, just click here

  • These generators are designed to be compact, lightweight, and easily transportable. They are ideal for camping or other portable use.
  • ​If you are looking for a generator which will run quietly, an inverter generator is your best bet (this may be important if you will use it camping).
  • ​An inverter generator is a good choice for running sensitive electronics.
  • ​You can hook up an inverter generator to a vehicle.
  • ​These generators may provide 2,000-7,000 watts.
  • Price typically ranges from around $300-$3,000.

You may find that a single generator is all you need, or you may discover that a couple of different generators are useful for different applications. I ended up buying a standby generator for my home, but I also have a powerful inverter generator which usually stays at my retreat to power essential devices. When we head out on camping trips, we can take it with us to our campsites and enjoy some of the comforts of home completely off the grid.

Power Options

The most common power options you will encounter for generators include:

  • Gasoline
  • ​Diesel
  • ​Propane
  • Natural gas

* If you're looking for the Best Portable Propane Generators, just click here.

You probably want to pick a fuel option based on what is most convenient to you with your current setup. If for example you already have an oil burner and a large storage tank in your home, diesel might be a good choice. It is safer than gasoline, though it does have its downsides. As with gasoline, you need to treat it with preservatives. You will burn through diesel quickly—which is true of gasoline too.

As I mentioned already, portable generators usually are powered by gasoline. With the larger standby models, you may have your choice between natural gas, diesel or propane. If you can opt for propane, it is a great choice since it can be stored safely and is unlikely to degrade even over a long time period. That means you do not need to treat it to maintain it.

There are a few solar generators on the market right now as well. Most of them can only provide you with a relatively low wattage (I have seen up to 4,000 watts at the high end), and the price tag can be kind of hefty. But obviously a solar generator can save you money over the long run, and may be a good option for your retreat in case of a true long-term emergency.

Important Features

There are numerous extra features which some generators may be equipped with. Here are a few you can look for:

  • Automatic start. This is a feature which is common in standby generators. If the power grid goes down, the standby generator turns on automatically.
  • Electric start. If you do not want to pull-start your generator every time, you may find electric start to be a useful feature. Just know that you typically have to buy the battery yourself, so tack on an extra $50 or so.
  • Wheels. While your larger portable generator probably already includes a wheel frame, you will be lucky if the wheels are included as well. Oftentimes you are forced to purchase these separately, so make sure you know whether this is the case or not. If you do need to buy them separately, they will likely cost you around $150.
  • Fuel options. Many models only offer you one fuel choice, but there are some generators which may allow you to choose between a couple of power options (e.g. propane or natural gas). You may also have the option to augment your fuel choices with a conversion kit.
  • Fuel gauge. How much fuel do you have left? You never want to risk running out right before an emergency. If your generator includes a fuel gauge, you will never need to worry about this; you will always know exactly when you are getting low.
  • Clean power. Inverter generators not only can provide you with quieter performance, but they also can provide you with cleaner power. This is why they are ideal for your sensitive electronics.
  • Removable console. This is a useful feature which prevents you from having to run a lot of extra extension cords outside.
  • Extra outlets. Some generators include only one outlet; others provide you with multiple outlets. This allows you to spread the load, which may in turn provide you with a more efficient use of your wattage.

The Importance of a Transfer Switch

If you are shopping for a standby generator, you must get a transfer switch. This is something which you have to install yourself.

What is it? It is a device which cuts off the power line leading from the grid to your home. This allows the generator to safely switch on and start providing power instead.

Why is this so essential? Without a transfer switch, it is not safe to operate your stationary or portable generator. You can end up overloading your circuits, which may destroy your appliances and even damage the generator itself. You also can create problems throughout the grid. If utility workers are trying to repair it, you could even harm them.

If you have the electrical know-how, you may be able to install the transfer switch yourself, but if you do not, you should call in a professional to handle the job. It will run you around $500-$900 (that is the cost with labor included).

If you need a cheaper workaround, you can consider an interlock device, which will cost you around $50-$150. This device can prevent energy spikes, but you need to manually work through a sequence of steps to use it.

Installing Your New Generator

The exact steps involved in installing your new generator are going to depend on the type of generator you buy and your particular electrical setup. Here is a particularly detailed set of steps for installing a portable generator, complete with photographs for the majority of the steps.

As you will notice, it is not easy to install a portable generator if you are not already skilled in electrical engineering. Many people opt for professional installation. And as I stated earlier, with a standby generator, professional installation may be required depending on where you live.

Safety Precautions for Installing and Using Your Generator

The most important thing (other than picking the right generator for your needs) is to make sure that you stay safe once you get around to installing and operating it. Here are some quick tips to ensure that you are staying safe:

  • Read the manual and instructions front-to-back before you start setting up your generator. If you require a professional’s assistance, get it.
  • ​Always run your generator outdoors in an open area. Enclosed spaces do not provide adequate ventilation. The generator needs a minimum of five feet of clear space on every side as well. 15 feet is even better.
  • ​Keep your generator far away from open flames, pilot lights, and so on.
  • ​If you purchase a portable generator (as opposed to a standby model), do not ever wire it directly into your home’s electrical system. Use an outlet.
  • ​Make sure the generator is on a level surface.
  • ​Ensure that your generator is properly grounded.
  • ​Do not expose your generator to dirt, moisture or vapor.
  • ​Know that fuel expands. If you overfill your tank, you are going to have a serious problem.
  • Never exceed the load capacity of your generator. If you need more power, you need a more powerful generator.

The Best Generator Buying Guide Reviews

Now that you know all about the different types of generators and have a better idea what you need to shop for, I want to tell you about some of the best generators on the market right now.

Remember, you should be making your buying decision primarily based off the type of generator you need. Price should be a secondary consideration. If you really need a standby generator, you are going to have to accept that you will be paying a lot more for it than you would for a portable or inverter generator.

But that does not make your budget irrelevant either. You will notice while shopping that portable and inverter generators are a lot more popular and widely reviewed. This is in part because they are more affordable—but it is also because most people do not really need or want a dedicated, permanent generator. They realize they can get away with paying less for a portable generator and still take care of most of their needs, so that is what they do.

I had a big budget, and I live in an area with intense winters and regular outages—so a standby generator was the best choice for my home. If you have a smaller budget, ask yourself if a portable generator will be sufficient for your needs. If it is, you can save money. If not, I recommend biting the bullet for a standby. Just make sure you know what you are doing before you buy one; otherwise your generator may fail on you. You will see what I am talking about as you read the reviews below.

Best Standby Generator Under $20,000

Generac Guardian Series QT04524ANSX

Generac Guardian Series QT04524ANSX Generator

Rating: 2.5 / 5.0

Need more than 22,000 watts? The Generac Guardian Series QT04524ANSX is a generator available in a range of different wattages:

  • 8,000 watts
  • ​11,000 watts
  • ​16,000 watts
  • ​22,000 watts
  • 45,000 watts

If you need 22,000 watts or less, you can buy this generator for under $5,000, but if you are shopping for 45,000 watts, you will pay $15,000+.

Key Features:

  • Up to 45 kW
  • ​Liquid-cooled engine
  • ​Runs on liquid propane or clean-burning natural gas
  • ​Quiet Test available
  • ​RhinoCoat paint finish provides protection from weather
  • ​Steel casing
  • UL-listed

What This Generator is Best For:

Not a lot of customers need a generator this expensive, but it would make sense if you live in a very large home or if you need backup power for a commercial or public structure. Note that if you live in California, you cannot purchase this generator as it is non-CARB compliant.

Why Choose the Generac Guardian Series QT04524ANSX?

This is a heavy-duty generator with solid steel construction and a durable paint finish, which makes it an ideal all-weather solution. It can power your home or commercial structure continuously for weeks if need be, and is rugged enough that it should run well for years before you need to replace it. The engine is actually automotive-grade, which means that it could power a 4WD truck for hundreds of thousands of miles without failure. As you can imagine, it should last much longer sitting outside your home or office.

Pros and Cons

Customers who have purchased the Generac Guardian Series QT04524ANSX report that its durability matched up to their expectations and that the model runs smoothly and reliably. It provides enough power that you may be able to run multiple AC units plus other devices simultaneously.

You will notice while researching this generator that not all the reviews are positive. Most of these poor reviews come down to either 1-poor installation, or 2-poor maintenance. Like the Generac 6551 Guardian Series, the QT04524ANSX requires an ongoing commitment to maintenance if you want to get the most from it.

Best Standby Generator Under $15,000

Generac Protector Series Diesel Standby Generator

Generac Protector Series Diesel Standby Generator

Rating: N/A

At present there are no reviews or ratings on this generator, but Generac is one of the gold standards for standbys. Why is it hard to find reviews for standby generators like this one? The reason is simple; most residential customers need portable or inverter generators, not standby generators—so you just will not find as much customer feedback. Regardless, with its excellent features, the Generac Protector Series 20 kW standby generator makes a great purchase in the $12,000-$13,000 range.

Key Features:

  • 20 kW
  • Includes Code Ready, a set of preconfigured options which are popular for operation.
  • Code-driven accessories included.
  • If there is a fuel leak, an alarm sounds and the generator shuts off automatically. There is a secondary tank basin to contain any leaks.
  • Inspect the generator’s status any time through an external viewing window.
  • External vent and fill.
  • UL/CUL 142-listed tank featuring double walls.

What This Generator is Best For:

As with other standby generators, the Generac Protector Series diesel standby generator is ideal for commercial settings, public buildings, or large homes. 20 kW is sufficient to power most household devices simultaneously. That includes central AC or heat.

Why Choose the Generac Protector Series Diesel Standby?

Generac is a trusted brand in the world of standby generators. There are not a lot of standby generators with ample customer reviews, so you need to shop mostly by features and brand reputation. The Generac Protector Series Diesel Standby offers you both.

Pros and Cons

The Generac Protector Series Diesel Standby includes excellent safety features such as the extra basin to contain leaks and the automatic alert and shutoff should a leak be detected. Other conveniences include a built-in hour meter, quiet weekly Quick-Test™, and removable doors which offer you quick access should you need to refuel or service the appliance. This device should run for years if you take care of it properly.

One drawback is that you do need to purchase the transfer switch separately. This is par the course with many standby generators however, so it is an added expense you should be prepared for. The only other drawback is that there is not a lot of customer feedback at this point.

Still, feedback on other Generac generators does give you a good idea what you can expect with this purchase. Reviews tell the same story again and again: Generac generators like the Protector Series run great—but you need to know what you are doing and be ready to make an ongoing commitment to maintenance.

Best Standby Generator Under $10,000

Generac 6551 Guardian Series

Generac 6551 Guardian Series Generator

Rating: 4.0 / 5.0

While browsing Amazon.com, you will discover that there are only a few standby generators which are really popular. One of the most noteworthy is the Generac 6551 Guardian Series. This generator has more than 30 customer reviews and an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars. The price range for the 22-kilowatt model is $4,000-$6,000. There are also a couple of other models with lower wattages (20 kilowatt or 8 kilowatt).

Key Features:

  • 22, 20, or 8 kilowatts (depending which option you choose when you buy)
  • Air-cooled
  • Fully enclosed in aluminum for weather protection
  • Natural gas or liquid propane-powered
  • Automatic start (no manual start)
  • Hands-free operation
  • True Power Technology protects sensitive electronics
  • EPA, CUL, and UL-compliant
  • 5-year limited warranty direct from the manufacturer
  • ​Composite mounting pad means you do not need a poured concrete base
  • Self-test runs only 12 minutes (there are also models in this series with a 5-minute self-test; pick the 12-minute option)
  • ​Automatic transfer switch required
  • Customer service is available 24/7/365

What This Generator is Best For:

Purchase the Generac 6551 Guardian Series if you are looking for a generator you can connect directly to your electrical system to provide your home or retreat with permanent backup power. If you take a look at the wattage chart which I shared with you previously, you will see that 22 kilowatts (22,000 watts) is sufficient to power numerous home devices simultaneously, and is even enough to operate central AC or an electric furnace. This makes it a great choice if you live in a part of the world which is subject to major temperature swings.

Why Choose the Generac 6551 Guardian Series?

The Generac 6551 Guardian Series is a relatively known quantity in a market where it is hard to find customer reviews. Because standby generators are expensive and more challenging to install than portable or inverter generators, there simply are not as many people who purchase them. It is always good to know what you are getting, and you have a lot more information to support your purchase with the 6551 Guardian Series.

Generac 6551 Guardian Series Video Review


Pros and Cons

The 6551 Guardian Series has some excellent features, like the option to choose natural gas or liquid propane. The Generac OHVI engine is powerful enough that you can run this generator for weeks if necessary continuously. Ease of use is another great advantage; the two-line LCD text display is clear and can be displayed in multiple languages. The backlit buttons are color-coded. You can even connect the generator to your smartphone to check on its status.

But this model does have some drawbacks too. A number of customers have mentioned there are some problems with the exercise mode/self-test. It seems in particular the 5-minute test is not sufficient to burn moisture off the oil. So it is best to opt for the 12-minute test, and to skip the “Quiet Test” feature. This should extend the life of the generator and prevent failures.

For that matter, it is important to know when you buy a generator like this that regular, ongoing maintenance is essential to its continuing operation. You cannot buy it, install it, and forget about it and expect top-shelf performance. This is the mistake that many purchasers make.

So Generac 6551 Guardian Series looks to be a strong purchase choice, if you are willing to put in the time and effort to keep up its maintenance.

Best Standby Generator Under $5,000

Briggs & Stratton 40445 8000-watt Home Standby Generator System

Briggs & Stratton 40445 Generator System

Rating: 2.8 / 5.0

You are not going to find a lot of standby generators for sale under $5,000; standby generators are generally going to be significantly more expensive than portable or inverter models since they are built as permanent solutions which offer you a higher wattage. One exception is the Briggs & Stratton 40445. This 8,000 watt generator sells for $1,500-$3,000.

Key Features:

  • 8000 watts.
  • Automatic quick response powers up the generator within seconds of a power outage. This system can also automatically deactivate the system should the grid come back online.
  • The transfer switch is included at no added cost.
  • 3-year limited manufacturer warranty on parts and labor
  • Meets NFPA 37 standard
  • You can place it as close as 18” from your home
  • User-friendly control panel

What This Generator is Best For:

In a way, the Generac Briggs & Stratton 40445 is an “in between” option if you want something more permanent than a portable generator but do not need or want to go all-out and spend a ton of money on something that can power your entire household. Use the Generac Briggs & Stratton 40445 to power your lights and essentials in case of a power outage. This would be a great choice for a residence or small business.

Why Choose the Briggs & Stratton 40445?

There are very few options for standby generators in the under-$5,000 price range. The Generac Briggs & Stratton 40445 has a number of customer reviews and ratings, so you can learn more about it than most models. It is designed for “easy” installation and use. Being as it is a standby model, you will still need professional help, but getting started is relatively simple.

Pros and Cons

The fact that the transfer switch is included is a big plus—usually you have to buy this separately. So that is one less cost to worry about, and one less part to hunt down. It is also hard to beat the Generac Briggs & Stratton 40445 for simplicity, convenience and price. This appliance is definitely aimed more at everyday residential consumers rather than those who with a lot of technical knowledge.

As far as cons go, you do have to purchase the Basic Wireless Monitor separately to keep an eye on your generator with ease. There are also no cables included for installation, so this is another added cost. Make sure to calculate in these costs before you decide whether to buy this generator!

Best Portable Generator Under $1,000

Westinghouse WH7500E

Westinghouse WH7500E Portable Generator

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0

If you are looking for more watts than you would get with the DuroStar DS4000S, but you still do not want to stretch your budget too much, you might consider the Westinghouse WH7500E, which you can purchase in the $700-$1,000 range. This popular portable gas-powered generator has more than 650 customer reviews and an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Key Features:

  • 7,500 watts of continuous power
  • 9,000 surge watts
  • 6.6 gallon fuel tank
  • 11 hours of runtime
  • 4-stroke OHV engine
  • Electric start
  • Comes with a battery charger, a tool kit, an oil funnel and oil
  • Wheel and handle kit included
  • 3-year limited warranty from the manufacturer

What This Generator is Best For:

As with the DuroStar DS4000S, this generator is excellent for a broad range of applications. You can use it for emergency backup power for your home or retreat, or you can buy it to power your RV or campsite, remote work site, workshop, or outdoor event. Because the Westinghouse WH7500E provides you with more watts than the DuroStar, you can use it to power more appliances simultaneously. It also offers you a longer runtime before you need to add more fuel. Note that this is a non-CARB compliant unit.

Why Choose the Westinghouse WH7500E?

What is great about the Westinghouse WH7500E is that minimal assembly is required and you receive a full tool kit and even the oil you need to get started. So you can get up and running quickly, even if you are a novice with generators. It is hard to beat the WH7500E for ease-of-use.

Westinghouse WH7500E Portable Generator Video Review


Pros and Cons

Buyers report that the WH7500E is easy to start and is built out of sturdy, durable materials which stand up to plenty of use. While it is quite heavy (200 pounds), the wheels and handle make it easy to push around. While not particularly quiet, it is also not overly loud. It should provide you with sufficient power for most of your home appliances. Shoppers who updated their reviews years later say that the generator continues to perform great.

What drawbacks are most commonly reported? Some customers have mentioned that there is a low oil warning even when there is plenty of oil. Aside from this design flaw, most of the problems reported by customers involve shipping. This is common when ordering online. On the whole, there are very few complaints about the Westinghouse WH7500E, making it one of the best generators out there.

Best Portable Generator Under $500

DuroStar DS4000S

DuroStar DS4000S Portable Generator

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0

As of the time of this review, the DuroStar DS4000S is the #1 Best Seller in the Portable Generators category on Amazon.com. More than 430 customers have reviewed it, giving it an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars. You can buy it in the $250-$400 range

Key Features:

  • Air-cooled OHV engine
  • Low oil shut-off
  • Steel frame
  • Four-point isolated motor mounts allow for quiet operation
  • Oil warning light
  • Volt meter
  • 3,300 watts of continuous power
  • 4,000 watt surge
  • Runs on gas
  • ​Provides power for 8 hours
  • EPA approved

What This Generator is Best For:

A portable generator like the DuroStar DS4000S is great for brief power outages; many of the customers who bought this generator did so in order to have a fallback in case of inclement weather. It also is an excellent purchase for a workshop or job site. If you are heading out on a camping trip, a portable generator can provide you with the power you need to enjoy the conveniences of home. This generator is also ideal for outdoor events.

Why Choose the DuroStar DS4000S?

Customers love the DuroStar DS4000S for its simple, fast installation and ease of use. You can start it up with just one pull, and you should find that the power is sufficient for your lights, fridge, television, and possibly even a small AC or heating unit. Again, I recommend scrolling up to the chart I shared earlier to get a feel for what the DuroStar DS4000S can power in your home. You are not going to find a lot of other generators which are backed up by this many positive customer reviews.

DuroStar DS4000S Portable Generator Video Review


Pros and Cons

Along with its ease-of-installation and use, the DuroStar DS4000S runs very quietly. If you have it running outside your home, you probably will not be able to hear it from indoors. If you bring it with you to a campsite, it should be sufficiently quiet so as not to cause a major disturbance. It seems it is a very durable unit as well; customers who bought the unit and updated their review months or years later mentioned that it still runs great.

Any drawbacks? You will have to install the wheel kit on your own, and this can be difficult because of the location of the bolts, not to mention the different wrench sizes which you need to deal with all the nuts and bolts. A couple of customers also mentioned that the unit did not come with a fuel gauge.

Best Inverter Generator Under $3,000

Honda EU3000iS

Honda EU3000iS Portable Inverter

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0

This gas-powered portable inverter generator sells in the $2,000-$3,000 price range (right now on Amazon you can find it for $1,999). More than 20 buyers have rated it with an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Key Features:

  • 3,000 running watts
  • Surge-free power
  • Produces just 48-58 decibels of noise
  • Eco-Throttle technology allows for super-efficiency
  • Run the generator for up to 20 hours on one tank of gas
  • Auto-off feature at low oil levels
  • Weighs just 134 pounds
  • Compact design: 25.8" x 18.9" x 22.4"
  • Electric start
  • Meets EPA and CARB standards

What This Generator is Best For:

As with other inverter generators, the Honda EU3000iS is ideal for situations where you need quiet, portable power. It is perfect for a campsite or RV park or for an outdoor event. It is also great for taking to remote job sites where you do not need a tremendous amount of power. It works well for backup power too, assuming you do not need to power a lot of appliances.

Why Choose the Honda EU3000iS?

Unlike a lot of other generators (including other inverter generators), the Honda EU3000iS does not produce a surge when you start it up. This helps to protect your electrical system and your devices. The clean power it produces is ideal for running computers and other sensitive electronics. The decibels it puts out are lower than the volume of human speech, which is quite impressive.

Honda EU3000iS Portable Inverter Video Review


Pros and Cons

Reviews for the Honda EU3000iS are overwhelmingly positive; almost all of them are 5 stars. Not only do customers praise the quiet operation of the Honda EU3000iS; they also remark on its excellent fuel efficiency and overall reliability. One customer even updated his original review 11 years later to say that the generator is still running perfectly. There are only several negative reviews. One mentions problems during shipping and the other two are quite vague. Overall it seems like it is hard to go wrong with the EU3000iS.

Best Inverter Generator Under $2,000

​Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000 PowerSmart Series

Briggs & Stratton 30545 PowerSmart Series

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0

If you are looking for a portable inverter generator under $2,000, one great choice is the Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000 PowerSmart Series. This popular generator has more than 90 customer reviews on Amazon.com as of the time of this writing. Ratings average out to 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Key Features:

  • 3000 starting watts and 2,600 running watts.
  • Clean power for sensitive electronics.
  • 1.5 gallon fuel tank can provide 10 hours of continuous operation at a 25% load.
  • 4 household outlets included.
  • A computer adjusts your engine speed to preserve fuel.
  • Runs at just 59 decibels.
  • Luggage-style telescoping handle for easy transport.
  • ​LCD StatStation Display for easy monitoring.
  • Charge your devices through the USB port.

What This Generator is Best For:

Use the Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000 PowerSmart Series for quiet, portable power at campsites, RV parks, worksites and more. The 30545 P3000 PowerSmart Series provides enough power to start your RV AC—but is quiet enough not to upset your neighbors.

Why Choose the Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000 PowerSmart Series?

The Briggs & Stratton 30545 P3000 PowerSmart Series has quite a few excellent features at a reasonable price, especially for those who want to power a lot of electronic devices. The other reason to consider the 30545 P3000 PowerSmart Series is the fact that it has a lot of fantastic reviews. Plenty of information is available to help you to make your purchase decision.

Briggs & Stratton P3000 Portable Inverter Generator Video Review


Pros and Cons

Customers report that this is a great purchase which actually exceeds the specs and performance of many other inverter generators within the same price range (and a few that cost more). It starts easily on the first pull and is both lighter and more compact than many competing generators. Despite this, it has a high fuel capacity.

While there are a few negative reviews, you will be hard-pressed to find any clear patterns between them. One buyer remarked that the unit is loud for example, but most other buyers commented that it runs quietly. All in all, this looks to be one of the best generators you can buy in this price range, especially to power your electronic gadgets!

Best Inverter Generator Under $1,000

Westinghouse WH2000iXLT

Westinghouse WH2000iXLT Portable Inverter

Rating: 4.4 / 5.0

Next up is another Westinghouse generator, the WH2000iXLT gas-powered portable inverter. This generator is also extremely popular, with more than 650 customer reviews and an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars. You can purchase it for $500-$700.

Key Features:

  • 1,800 running watts
  • 2,200 starting watts
  • Weighs just 43 pounds
  • Compact design: 17.8 x 12.5 x 20.3 inches
  • Safe for sensitive electronics
  • 1.3 gallon gas tank
  • 13 hours at 25% load
  • EPA & CARB compliant
  • You have the option to connect this generator with another using a parallel cord
  • Backed by a two-year limited manufacturer’s warranty

What This Generator is Best For:

Inverter generators like the Westinghouse WH2000iXLT tend to operate more quietly than conventional generators, and they also can be manufactured with a much more compact and lightweight design. On top of that, they offer you high fuel efficiency. This makes them the most portable option around—even more so than conventional portable generators on wheels like those discussed previously. Bring the Westinghouse WH2000iXLT to your campsite or opt for it in a neighborhood with strict noise pollution rules.

Why Choose the Westinghouse WH2000iXLT?

The Westinghouse WH2000iXLT features cutting-edge technology for enhanced fuel efficiency. With traditional generators, the engine runs at a constant speed, no matter what the load is. The WH2000iXLT on the other hand has an engine which varies its speed based on the load, which lessens its power consumption. This helps you to conserve gas and save money. The double-insulated acoustic hood, asymmetrical fans and dual muffler all help to keep the inverter quiet.

Westinghouse WH2000iXLT Portable Inverter Video Review


Pros and Cons

You will be hard-pressed to find major complaints about the Westinghouse WH2000iXLT. Customers appreciate how quietly the unit runs, which makes it ideal for camping trips. It starts easily within a couple of pulls and does a great job conserving fuel. It is lightweight and small enough that it can easily be moved from location to location. It does ship without a grounding cord, which is one drawback, as you do need one, and will therefore have to buy it separately.

Best Inverter Generator Under $500

WEN 56200i Portable Inverter Generator

WEN 56200i Portable Inverter Generator

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0

Most inverter generators will run you more than $500, but there are actually some great choices in the under-$500 range, one being the WEN 56200i. This affordable unit has more than 180 customer reviews as of the time of this writing, with an average of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Key Features:

  • 2000 watts of startup power and 1,600 watts of running power.
  • Runs at just 51 decibels (comparable to the volume of speech).
  • Produces clean power safe for your sensitive electronics.
  • 1 gallon tank provides 6 hours of run-time at a 50% load.
  • Includes (2) three-prong 120V receptacles, (1) 12-V DC receptacle, and (1) 5V USB port.
  • Connect up to 2 generators using the WEN 56421 Parallel Connection Kit (purchase separately).
  • Automatic shutdown with indication lights for low fuel and low oil.
  • Weighs just 48 pounds.
  • Backed by a 2-year manufacturer’s warranty.

What This Generator is Best For:

This inverter generator is a great choice for a campsite, worksite, tailgating party, or RV park. It also makes an excellent option for a workshop. If powering sensitive electronics is important to you, the WEN 56200i will help you keep your laptop, tablet, smartphone and other gadgets running.

Why Choose the WEN 56200i?

The customer reviews for the WEN 56200i are quite extensive and favorable. You can find a great deal of information about what to expect from reading them, and as you will see, the pros greatly outweigh the cons.

Pros and Cons

The WEN 56200i is a powerful little generator which provides reliable, quiet performance. It can easily rival more expensive generators; in fact, one reviewer mentioned that it can compete with the Yamaha EF2000is, which is around twice as expensive. Indeed, the WEN 56200i seems to be patterned off of the EF2000is.

Pros include the price, quality construction, energy efficiency, portability, and quiet performance. As far as cons go, there is no fuel valve, and several customers mentioned a design flaw involving putting oil in. Interestingly enough, WEN responds to almost all customer complaints directly and personally (the responses are not all form replies—they speak to the issue), which is very impressive. So the WEN 56200i looks to be an outstanding deal.

Conclusion: Choose a Generator Which Fits Your Needs, Budget, and Expertise

Hopefully reading these reviews you learned a lot more about what you can expect if you buy a standby, portable or inverter generator. A portable generator can save you a lot of money and offer you strong performance and ease-of-use. An inverter generator will cost you a bit more, but you will find it is even more compact, convenient, and fuel-efficient—so it can save you money over the long run. Standby generators can be quite pricey and can also be very hard to install and maintain without the right level of expertise. There are situations however where they are necessary.

Be sure to regularly inspect your generator. Check for damage, accumulating dust, and other issues which may hinder performance or cause a safety issue. If you need to, take the generator in to be serviced by a pro who can keep it in working order.

Now you should be in pretty good shape as far as figuring out what you need! I did a ton of research before I bought my first generator, and I suggest that you do too. Make a list of features which are most important to you, and then shop around and read customer reviews. It is a lot of work getting set up with a generator, but once you have a backup supply of power, you will feel (and be) a lot safer during power cuts and other emergencies!

Reply